When United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) issues a Notice to Appear (NTA) before an immigration judge, the recipient must appear in immigration court at a specific time, date, and location. The NTA is a charging document sent to foreign nationals signaling the start of removal or deportation proceedings. If you’ve been served with an NTA, don’t panic. The notice does not mean that you have broken the law or that you are guaranteed to be deported. If you fail to appear in court when you are scheduled, you will most likely be ordered for deportation as a result. You actually have multiple legal rights available to you in this situation. The best thing you can do is immediately hire an immigration lawyer to help you defend those rights. The NTA will include a statement describing your status as a foreign national, the factual allegations against you, and the charges of removability against you as well as the immigration laws that you have allegedly violated. The court proceedings will revolve around this information, because it includes the reasons why the US government believes you should legally be deported. Take care to review all the information on the notice to ensure you understand the charges. An attorney will be able to provide you with a more comprehensive understanding of the NTA and its implications. You should also make sure your personal information, such as your name and address, is listed correctly on the notice so you can receive any future communications from the immigration court. The first thing you’ll have to do is attend the scheduled Master Calendar hearing, where the judge will explain your rights. You will appear and provide the court with certain information including your current address, your best language, and whether you wish to have legal representation. You will then plead to the charges listed in the NTA either by acknowledging them or denying them. You can sometimes request more time to retain an attorney or to form a defense strategy. For your own sake, please do not plea to the NTA without your lawyer present! If you concede (accept) the charges of removability, you will have to provide the court with a defense in order to prove why you shouldn’t be deported in spite of the charges. If you plan to deny the charges of removability, be prepared for another potential court appearance called a Contested Merits hearing. You and your attorney will have to explain why the charges on the NTA are invalid and prove to the court that you are not legally removable from the US. Depending on the strength of your arguments, the judge can either terminate the removal proceedings or uphold the charges. Your last resort would be to further prepare a defense and apply for deportation relief. An attorney can provide you with the best possible chance to avoid deportation. An experienced lawyer, like the ones at Landerholm Immigration, will be able to help you decide how to approach the charges of removability and build a strong argument in your defense. Contact us today to ensure that your rights are well-protected.
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